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Chronic respiratory symptoms observed in US veterans following deployment may not be unique to that population
  1. Susan Peters
  1. Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Dr Susan Peters, Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, the Netherlands; S.Peters{at}

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Military personnel can be exposed to a variety of occupational and environmental pollutants that places their health at risk. In a recent publication in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Garshick and colleagues characterised the inhalational exposures during deployment of US military personnel to Afghanistan and Southwest Asia and the associations with postdeployment respiratory symptoms.1 They observed significant associations between burn pit smoke and military job-related vapours, gases, dusts and fumes (VGDF) exposure and chronic respiratory symptoms.

These findings may lead to a further question: what does this mean in a wider perspective? Not only US veterans, but veterans from across the globe may experience such health effects following deployment in these areas. Furthermore, when looking at the characteristics of the working conditions of deployed military personnel, which are quite particular, there are also some similarities with firefighting.

For both military personnel and firefighters occupational exposures are complex and involve a highly heterogeneous mix of chemical, physical, biological and psychosocial hazards.2 Such exposures may result from fires, but for example also from activities for training and protecting life and property. Both the military and firefighting workforce can involve various roles, responsibilities and training requirements. Whereas studying one specific group of workers typically makes exposure assessment easier, this is not the case for military …

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  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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